That was a word from this morning's sermon, a word on how to start praying if you aren't sure how (or even sure if anybody will listen).
It bookends nicely with what I learned from Thich Nhat Hanh yesterday, who offered us a breathing meditation that was (in breath) I am here; (out breath) I am now. And (in breath) I have arrived; (out breath) I am home.
Where have I arrived? In the here and now. "The address of the kingdom of God is the here and now. The Kingdom is now or never."
Incredibly astute observation from a Buddhist monk using Christian terminology. My other favorite statements were:
"Many people think they have to die to enter the kingdom of God. In fact, we have to be very alive."
"The kingdom of God is always available to us. We, most often, are not available to it."
We are too busy to notice God all around us, beckoning us to experience Him or Her in the present moment, through the beauty of creation - ourselves included - that, some theologians say, exists because the love of God was so great that it overflowed and the world was born.
Yesterday's peace walk was incredible. I had such an awareness of God's presence as I sat among several hundred Angelenos (necessarily a wild bunch) and we all breathed together, in and out, becoming aware of our bodies, letting go of our tensions, imagining our "Father within" and "Mother within" (the teacher's words). I lost it when he used that term, and I suddenly had a feeling of breathing in sync with the Sustainer of the Universe. That's heavy stuff.
Yet, it is there for the taking. The kingdom is at hand. We are welcome to its bounty. We are invited to its reality. Hanh said he likes the definition that God is "happiness" (which would include Love) (and actually, according to the philosophical definition of happiness as flourishing, may be quite apt). God is happiness. And God is available 24/7.
I have been striving to live in each moment ever since that blessed event. I find that the vast majority of moments in my life are quite benign, with nothing harming or threatening me, and thus I can be quite content if I remain in the present, not allowing the past or future to tyrranize me with worry or regret. Of course this is a huge discipline right now and will take time to make habitual. But I think it is worth it.
Part of me resists, pointing out that if we ignore the past we are doomed to repeat it (plus I love history), and if we don't plan ahead we can't get anything done. But then I think perhaps that doesn't matter all that much. Jesus seems to be about living in the moment: he tells us not to think about what we will eat or drink or wear, or to worry about tomorrow. It all seems to fit nicely.
So the service this morning was wonderfun (ha ha - I'm leaving that 'cause it's a great typo). I visited All Saints (BH) because I had to get J at the airport so I was on that side of town. Oh, it hit me hard, to be back in the full-blown liturgy. I cried during the creed of all things, simply because of the deep sense of homecoming I feel every time I am in that church. But the music was the best. Oh, I couldn't even sing the hymns, not out loud, but my heart sang and I just let the beautiful music wash over me and through me. It sang my heart's song - both the words and the ineffable quality that music - or any art - can express uniquely. Yes, it was very good to be in the temple of the Lord this morning.
After the service I was greeted and loved on by lots of people. It was just what I needed. The Holy Spirit had done some preparatory work for my visit, quite to my surprise, and folks knew about what has been going on and were ready to support me. That was amazing. I hadn't even tried to put the word there, but God blesses the words that go out over cyberspace. I'm so grateful. The fact that the rector of a huge congregation would stop and talk to me for several minutes on a Sunday morning, when she should be "making the rounds" - well that meant more than I can say. In fact, it's the point of the Good Samaritan story, isn't it? To set aside the duties - even and especially religious ones - for the needy, broken person who is before us in the moment. And now we're back to the Buddha's wisdom. I have a lot to learn from that religion, I tell ya.
Then I got to pick up my hubs, and the world seems quite right again, at least in this moment, which is where I am. I am here. And God is here too. And we are walking this journey, one moment at a time. How gracious that is. No matter what has happened, or will happen, I am blessed in this moment. Thanks be to God.
Two more things:
A book recommended in church today, "The Water Will Hold You: A Skeptic Learns to Pray," by Lindsey Crittenden, sounds wonderful. Check it out. It is where the "I am here, You are here" prayer comes from.
I joked with a reader of this blog how much we hate that J writes such great sermons; how he's so naturally gifted without any training that it makes us nuts. Well, when I told J this story, he said he wished he'd been there, because he would have told this person that the only reason he's good is that he tries to write sermons like you. He actually writes, and reads, hearing your voice in his head. I wanted you to know. :)
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> I wanted you to know. :)
wowzer. that's cool.
Lovely, inspiring post. Thank you. I sat with our local Zen group for over a year before I entered seminary...what I experienced there, learned there, became there continues to have a profound influence on me. I totally agree--Christianity has much to learn from Buddhism.
Love your blog. I graduated with a Ph.D. in pastoral theology and pastoral counseling in 2005. Wonderful experience for me--hope your Ph.D. work is equally amazing!
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